All phosphorothioate mixed-backbone oligonucleotides (MBOs) composed of deoxyribonucleotide and 2'-O-methylribonucleotide segments were studied for their target binding affinity, specificity, and RNase H activation properties. The 2'-O-methylribonucleotide segment, which does not activate RNase H, serves as a high affinity target-binding domain and the deoxyribonucleotide (DNA) segment, which binds to the target with a lower affinity than the former domain, serves as an RNase H-activation or target-cleaving domain. In order to understand the influence of the size and position of the DNA segment of MBOs on RNase H-mediated cleavage of the RNA target, we designed and synthesized a series of 18-mer MBOs with the DNA segment varying from a stretch of two to eight deoxyribonucleotides in the middle, at the 5'-end, or at the 3'-end, of the MBOs. UV absorbance melting experiments of the duplexes of the MBOs with the complementary and singly mismatched RNA targets suggest that the target binding affinity of the MBOs increases as the number of 2'-O-methylribonucleotides increases, and that the binding specificity is influenced by the size and position of the DNA segment. Analysis of RNase H assay results indicates that the minimum substrate cleavage site and cleavage efficiency of RNase H are influenced by the position of the DNA segment in the MBO sequence. RNA cleavage efficiency decreases as the position of the DNA segment of the MBO.RNA heteroduplex is changed from the 3'-end to the middle and to the 5'-end of the target strand. Studies with singly mismatched targets indicate that the RNase H-dependent point mutation selectivity of the MBOs is affected by both the position and size of the DNA segment in the MBO sequence.